Iraq Postpones Elections

February 8, 2010

Iraq’s independent election commission has postponed the start of parliamentary races. Officials say that they need time to determine who is eligible to campaign after a ban was lifted on hundreds of potential candidates.

An Iraqi appeals court last wednesday overturned an effort to bar hundreds of candidates from running for office. Most of the people barred were formerly aligned with Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath party, and many of them were previously members of parliament. The ban threatened to disenfranchise Sunnis and open up possible sectarian tensions that have plagued Iraq for the past few years.

The seriousness by which these events are viewed here in Washington D.C. is evident by the fact that Vice President Joe Biden was sent to Iraq in the wake of the original decision to bar the candidates. There is concern that the longer the elections are delayed, violence could continue, and stability in Iraq might further unravel.

Iraq Vice President Tariq al Hashimi discussed the issue in Washington last week with top Obama administration officials. Al Hashimi told reporters late Thursday the Obama administration is considering the idea of refusing to recognize the election if the Sunnis are again excluded. This is due to the fact that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki has said that the appeals court’s decision to overturn the ban was unconstitutional, and has asked for the ban to be put back into place immediately. Al Maliki has accused former Ba’athists of supporting the al Qaeda in Iraq terrorist group, which is blamed for a series of major car bomb attacks in Baghdad in recent weeks.

Iraqi political reconciliation is considered critical to U.S. plans to remove combat troops from Iraq in August, ahead of a planned complete military withdrawal by the end of next year.

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